Fri. June 23, 2017: Spinning The Freelance Plates and the Threads of Inspiration

Friday, June 23, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Cloudy and muggy

Got a section of meadow mowed yesterday morning. It’s starting to look like actual progress. It looks like it will rain any minute this morning. I should use that as a reason to rush out there and mow, like my neighbors are; instead, I’m dragging my feet, hoping it will rain and I can’t.

I was in a lousy mood for a good part of yesterday. I tried to tease myself out of it with the “CrankyPants Song”, but it didn’t work. That’s a song I made up when I worked backstage. When a colleague or I was overtired and grumpy, I’d sing it to make fun of the grumpster (or myself), and we’d all laugh and get over ourselves. But it didn’t work yesterday.

Turned in the latest set of revisions to the new-to-me editor. Let’s hope he’s happy with this set. Also called him out on the contradictions. I hate working in their automated system that won’t let me do what supposedly needs to be done. At this point, it’s a toss-up about whether I’ll be fired or whether I’ll walk. I wonder if this is the norm, and that’s how they get out of paying writers?

Working on a pitch for a publication I hope to finish and send out tomorrow. I’ve written for them several times; it would be great to do so again. I’ve gotten decent pay and some solid clips from them in the past.

Pitched for another gig that sounded like fun; we’ll see if my samples are what they’re looking for. Again, money might be an issue. They pay “per word”, but haven’t said how much per word, or talked about volume and turn-around time. Heard back from them this morning — as I suspected, the per word rate is so low, I couldn’t even fill the gas tank with an assignment. For something that requires A LOT of technical craft, is for-hire with no royalties, um, no. I will send them a refusal today.

Press releases went out for “Personal Revolution”. I finally wrestled the website so that I could add the “Personal Revolution” information into the Delectable Digital Delights, the Media Room, and the Bazaar pages of the Devon Ellington site. No thanks to the webhost, but in spite of them. That webhost is useless. Not only are they unreliable, their customer service is non-existent. I’m starting to think most hosts are. But, by poking around and swearing a lot, I managed to figure out workarounds that got up the information I needed to add. I really need to take some classes in website coding and design. But it’s the usual dilemma — when the time exists, the money doesn’t. When the money’s there, it’s there because there’s a heavy workload in, and the time doesn’t exist. And anything web-related has to be something I can handle, update, tweak, and rearrange myself, not hire in a webmaster. The amount of attention my different sites need would mean I need someone weekly, and the cost (because the webmaster DESERVES to be paid for all this, and deserves a good rate) is out of my range right now.

The press releases also have the information for upcoming projects, which means I have to get my ass in gear and meet deadlines.

I have a good idea about the next Cornelia True/Roman Gray story. I had to have the title for the press release, and came up with “Miss Winston Apologizes”. And then I figured out who Miss Winston was and why she apologized, and there was the premise for the next piece. It’s still set in Cornelia’s time period. I decided I’m going to set three stories there, then have her go with Roman when he next time travels, and they can have adventures elsewhere (that all tie in to the main arc). Now, I need to write the opening, so I can pop it in with “Ramsey Chase” and get going on the proofread. The July 10 release date will be here before I know it.

I’ve also got the opening of “Labor Intensive”, the next Twinkle Tavern mystery, set around Labor Day (which is set to release just before Labor Day weekend, so I better get on with it).

With Playing the Angles hoping to release in October, we really need to find the right cover image. And I really need to do a final proof on it, and settle on the name for the series (even though each book will have a different pair of protagonists).

Think there’s enough to do? Along with keeping up a constant stream of pitches and freelance pieces so I can keep a roof over my head.

A royalty check from the Topic Workbooks and “Plot Bunnies” cheered me up. I certainly can’t retire on it, or even pay next month’s bills, but it helps tide me over a bit, and just getting the royalties makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction.

The last research book I need for the Lavinia Fontana play arrived, thank goodness, because I have to start writing it at the beginning of July.

Got a rejection on an article pitch for a new-to-me market. I’m going to re-slant it to send elsewhere, and then submit something new to this market. I’m determined to crack it. Some of the content puzzled me; then I got an apology from the editor, saying the email had gone off before he was done, and he hoped I’d pitch again.  I told him no worries, I had every intention of so doing, but I’d let him rest over the weekend!  😉

Heard back from another place I pitched. They loved my samples. They want to know how good my French and/or Spanish are. Um, what? Why wasn’t that in the ad? I read French reasonably well (I read Moliere in French, because it’s funnier than any English translation I’ve yet found), and I can read newspaper and magazine articles and basically figure them out. I can get by in French, and I’ve got a little German. But I’m not fluent. So that might knock me out completely, which would be a shame. I’d love to get my French back up to speed, but I doubt they want me learning on the job.

I’m playing with yet another new idea, this one with a pair of older protagonists. I think it could be interesting. I’m trying to decide if I want to set it in Cornwall or in Ayrshire. I know both, but I know Ayrshire better, and, as I’m working on the outline, it seems to naturally gravitate to Ayrshire. I’ve set several things in Ayrshire, stretching it to add additional towns and do mix-and-match with real places. I’ve even added additional Scottish National Trust properties when Culzean Castle (where I’ve rented an apartment on more than one occasion, and which I know VERY well) didn’t quite fit the plot. In this particular piece, I’m adding a street off the main road to Culzean (halfway between the Castle and Little K’s Kitchen, where I used to get my newspaper and the racing form every morning), and that’s where my protags have rented a house.

I also figured out what I need to shift in another piece I’ve been noodling with, to get the opening different from yet another piece, whose opening I like, but was too similar to this one. The settings are similar — one at an artists’ colony, one at a meditation retreat. But the characters and situations and what I want to explore are very different. Interestingly enough, though, the protagonists for both pieces share some of the same titles on their bookshelves! Such as the Complete Works Of Shakespeare and Louisa May Alcott’s diaries.

Speaking of Louisa, a tweet from the lovely folks at Orchard House got me re-reading her. They were talking about Rose in Bloom, so I ordered that and Eight Cousins (which happens before RiB) from the library and read them this past week. From a critical, feminist perspective, there are plenty of problems. Yet it was still, in some ways, ahead of its time (although highly romanticized). It got me thinking of Fruitlands, which is where I always imagine those two books set, rather than Concord. In fact, I had an exchange with another Orchard House follower about that, when she was puzzled about “rolling hills” she didn’t remember around Concord, and now she’s going to visit Fruitlands!

It got me thinking that I would like to set something in a family compound in that area (Harvard, MA, which is different than where Harvard U. is in Boston). Somehow, I came up with a set of sisters (inspired by the great aunts in Maine), and their patriarch/matriarch based in the compound, but set in the early 1900s, and somehow, from there, I leapt to the opening taking place in San Francisco in 1904, pre-Earthquake, but just at the end of the “Barbary Plague” where so many of the Chinese immigrants died in SF from bubonic plague from 1900-1904, and that led to a stack of research books about that time period, so who knows how the piece will end up? Right now, I see it starting in SF, moving by train eastwards, with a stop in Chicago, but I have to figure out why, beyond simply changing trains.

1904 Newspaper archives, here I come. I think I can read some at local libraries, and probably access some via Boston Public Library’s digital files (I have an e-card from them); when in doubt, I can always contact my stalwart NYPL and Library of Congress.

But it’s amazing how re-reading a childhood book can set off a new train of thought.

I’ve just received Under the Lilacs and An Old-Fashioned Girl from the library to re-read. I remember reading both at my grandmother’s house in Foxboro, under an actual lilac hedge, when I was little.

Who knows what they will inspire?

This weekend, I have to dig in to FIX IT GIRL, because all those books on Hearst Castle have to go back to the library next week. They can’t be extended any more!
Besides, I want to get this draft done and the submission packets ready. I want to start querying after 4th of July, but have to get everything out before mid-August, or I might as well wait until mid-September, because few places actively read by mid-August, and right back from Labor Day, they need a couple of weeks to catch up.

I think I’ve got a handle on how I want the First Big Love Scene to go. Since this isn’t erotica, but historical fiction, the style is gentler, and I have to get it just right. Things were often down and dirty in 1930s Hollywood (as they often are everywhere in every time period), but my protag is neither a goody two-shoes nor a nymphomaniac. Nor is this a category romance where she’s only allowed to be attracted to one man. She’s an intelligent modern woman of her time, and slightly ahead of it, breaking new ground, fighting sexism, but also following her heart (and her passions). I’ve got that balance right in most of her scenes; now I have to get it right in the love scenes, too.

In general, I want this to be a fiction weekend. I’ve spent so much time on articles in order to pay the bills that the fiction has suffered, so it’s time to give it some more attention.

This is a great June for the roses — they’re blooming like crazy. And the petunias in the barrel out front have grown enough so they’re sticking their heads over the rim and peeking out. It’s very cute.

Have a great weekend!

Fri. March 7, 2014: Details About the Adventures in Boston

Friday, March 7, 2014
Waxing Moon
Mars Retrograde
Saturn Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Hop over to Adventures in Vineland to see what’s going on with the latest wine experiment.

Yesterday was exhausting, but really fun.

I didn’t sleep much, and woke up just before the alarm went off at 4:30 in the morning. Yoga, meditation, a little writing, breakfast, getting interview ready (I REALLY hate to be in full hair and make-up by 6 AM — it feels weird). Had to wear SHOES all day. I don’t wear shoes working at home; I’m barefoot until I leave the house, so wearing shoes always feels weird. Even though I have a lot of cute shoes.

Out the door by 6:15. Drove to Kingston train station. I had to buy a train ticket. MBTA had answered my email and told me I could buy it at a place called Coffee, T, and Thee. According to Google Maps, it was smack dab in the center of the road leading to the station. I figured it was a cart or something.

It wasn’t, of course. It’s a building at the end of the train platform. I bought my ticket, got change for the parking, and had to ask someone how to pay for parking. You learn the number for your space, and then you stick your $4 one-dollar bills in the slot for that space — looks like a set of metal mailboxes in an old apartment building. The guy at the coffee shop told me to make sure I folded the bills a certain way and put them in one at a time, or they wouldn’t fit. I started doing it, and the train came in. I couldn’t get the bills in and figured the train would leave without me and I’d have to wait a half hour in the cold for the next one.

The conductor said, “Don’t worry, take a breath, we’re not leavin’ without you!”

I took a breath, someone showed me how to use the can-opener-like device attached the the mailboxes with a cord to shove the money in, and I hopped on the train. All good.

What can I say? I’m used to the hateful Metro North New Haven line, where the train people will watch you run down the platform, then slam the door and pull out just as you reach it.

Thank you, kind people at the Kingston train station!

The train was awesome! The cars are old-style, like the ones we had in NY in the 60s and 70s, but very comfortable, double-decker cars, and the trains run efficiently. The conductors are really nice. The announcements are clear.

I find trains soothing. The ride in was great. It amazes me how it’s three times the distance I had to travel from my mom’s outside of NYC into NYC, but is the same price AND takes less time. That’s because Boston’s commuter rail is far more efficient than Metro North.

South Station is TEENY. Yet it’s more confusing than either Grand Central or Penn. I took out my Google map for the first interview. After about ten minutes of walking in the brutal cold, I was pretty sure the damn map was wrong (again) and I was mad. I went back to South Station to ask at the Information desk, and that was useless.

“That way” is not an answer. Especially not when “that way” encompasses three exits leading to different streets.

No kiosk or display with street maps or any relevant information. The one kiosk with tourist information had information on . . .wait for it . . .Vermont.

WTF??????

By sheer chance, I found the right street, and headed down to the first appointment. I was still an hour early. My appointment was pleased, since her day was packed, and it worked out well to see me early. We had a really nice chat and discussed a variety of possibilities. I filled out yards of paperwork, and then it was off to my next appointment.

Fortunately, the map was more correct for that one, although I later found out it took me the longest and most circuitous route possible.

I got to walk through Chinatown — small, but what a sigh of relief. I now know where to go when I need specific supplies that I can’t get on Cape. Wherever I’ve lived in the country, I’ve lived near a Chinatown until I moved to the Cape. I miss it.

Chinatown led to the start of Boylston Street, and my appointment was waaaaay down the street. Well, it wasn’t that far, just a couple of miles. If it hadn’t been so cold, it would have been a great walk, especially since it’s past the Boston Commons/Public Gardens. And next to Emerson College’s theatre is a cool little alley with an iron-front gate with the comedy/tragedy masks and interesting-looking bits inside.

I was far too early for my second appointment — but it was only a block from Copley Square, which meant the Boston Public Library. I went in and the lovely lady set up my Sandwich Library card so I can use it in the BPL System. I’m excited — I now have access to the BPL System, the Old Colony network, and the CLAMS network. Talk about feeling rich!

The circulating portion of the library was too noisy, so I went up to the older building, the one that’s very similar to NYPL on 42nd St./Fifth Avenue, and set up in one of the reading rooms to do some work (because yes, I always bring work with me). I had a solid hour to work in the library, which was delightful.

Headed back to my next appointment. There were a couple of things that set of warning bells at first, but the person with whom I had the appointment, and the department in which it was in were terrific. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

When the appointment was done, I headed back towards South Station, first on Boylston Street, but then, instead of the weird zigzag the Google map had me do getting there, I cut through the theatre district. First of all, it was my type of area — theatres, I felt right at home. Second, it was a faster and more efficient way to get to the station.

I hit South Station in time to catch the train I wanted. Stopped at The Well for a really good coffee and Rosie’s bakery for a nice cookie — I’d eaten breakfast at 5:30 and hadn’t had a chance to eat lunch. If the weather was more temperate, I would have packed a few other things in.

Rode the top level of the double decker back, which was fun. I was just as excited as the five year old riding with his Grandma.

Got back to Kingston, headed back over the bridge. Stopped at Market Basket to pick up a few things, and home. Pizza for dinner.

Now that the psychological barrier’s been broken to get into Boston, I’ll be able to get in and out more efficiently and more often. That’s where the money jobs and several other good opportunities are, and I need to be able to take advantage of them. The bus would pick me up/drop me off faster, but it’s both more expensive than the train AND there’s the chance I’d be stuck in traffic, which, on days where I have rehearsal, is not an option.

Went to bed really early last night. My legs hurt from walking on concrete all day – not used to it. But I liked walking around, and will like it even more when the weather is better.

Now, I have a lot to catch up on and prep for the weekend. Back to the page! Have a great weekend.

Devon